The One That Got Away
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Oct. 20, 2004 - In fishing terms, the North Lamar Pantherettes were the ones that got away Tuesday night.
After winning the opening game against the Pantherettes, the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats had the district leaders right where they wanted them in game four, leading 22-21 and serving.
But the Pantherettes (9-0 in 12-4A, 16-9 overall) wriggled away and came up with a four-game victory by scores of 24-26, 25-20, 25-12, 25-23 that clinched the district championship for them. The Lady Cats (6-3, 15-12), meanwhile, did move one step closer to securing second place in district by virtue of Mount Pleasant's four-game upset of Texas High.
Either an SSHS victory over Greenville (4-5) on Friday or a North Lamar win over Texas High (5-4) will give the Lady Cats second place outright. If the reverse happens, the Lady Cats will tie Texas High for third place and need a playoff to determine postseason seeding.
Depending on where they end up, the Lady Cats will play either Wylie (6-3 in District 11-4A), Mesquite Poteet (5-4) or Forney (5-3) in the bi-district round, Oct. 26-30.
On Tuesday, the Lady Cats received some outstanding play from sophomore Kayla Morgan with 10 blocks, junior Marlee Peugh with 18 service points and four aces, and junior Tara Gibby with 14 kills and four blocks, but North Lamar stayed poised to pull away at the end of games two and four.
"It was kind of the game you expected it to be. North Lamar's a great team, but I was very proud of the way the girls competed," said SSHS head coach John McCullough. "They played very well.
"In the fourth game, we had a great chance to win it, but North Lamar came back. Their coach was very impressed with the we played, very impressed with the way the girls have improved over the year. As a coach, that makes you feel good to have another coach notice how good your girls are playing."
The Lady Cats played well enough to win game one by using the serving of senior Betsy Blount to run off the game's first eight points. Blount had an ace and Morgan had two key blocks to fuel the 8-0 start.
Blount finished the match with 10 points and 12 assists, while Morgan had six kills and an assist to go with her season-high 10 blocks.
"Kayla really made them change what they were doing. They were doing a lot of tipping because every time they tried to hit over, they weren't able to do that because she was getting her hands on it and blocking it," McCullough said.
"They had a few they hit around her, but you have to give North Lamar credit because they're good at doing that."
North Lamar came back to actually take a lead at 13-12, but the Lady Cats halted the run behind the serving of Peugh and finished off the game with two kills by Gibby.
In the match, Peugh got all 24 of her serves in and scored in every game.
In game two, the Pantherettes scored six of the final nine points to offset a four-kill, two-block game by Gibby.
North Lamar easily won game three, using a reversed tip call midway through the match to springboard them on a 7-0 run to take a 17-6 advantage. The run was finally broken by senior Christina Patchen who made a diving dig that hit just on the other side of the net for an SSHS point.
Patchen finished with 27 digs, while senior Casey Carper had 22.
"Casey Carper was unbelievable last night with a lot of one-arm digs and just diving around and putting the ball back in play," McCullough said. "She put on a great performance."
In game four, the Lady Cats got three kills from NeNe Hynson, two from Morgan, six from Gibby and two from Hailey Watson, but North Lamar used a tipped kill from Celeste Coward and a back row spike from Ashley Becker to break a 23-23 tie.
Watson led the Lady Cats with 14 assists to go with six kills and three points.
"I told the girls that if we play like that on Friday, we'll beat Greenville and clinch second place, and if we play like that next week, we've got a shot at winning a playoff game," McCullough said.
North Lamar was led by Stormy Smith with 15 kills and two blocks, and Coward with 10 kills. Cayse Holland had a team-high 16 points, while Logan Anglin recorded 11.